Red-light camera ban being sought
Cincinnati group organizes ballot drive for Toledo voters
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Members of a Cincinnati group who last year successfully fought the installation of red-light cameras there are bringing their efforts to Toledo. Chris Finney, a board member of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes, argues that the cameras are not intended to increase safety among motorists, but are designed simply to add money to the city's coffers. "It has nothing to do with a pressing safety priority, it has nothing to do with saving lives, and it has nothing to do with reducing accidents," Mr. Finney said in a telephone interview. "It has to do with making money." But Toledo police Chief Mike Navarre contends that red-light cameras have reduced accidents by decreasing the number of people who run red lights. Mr. Finney hopes to collect 14,000 signatures to put the issue of banning cameras before Toledo voters in November. An organizational meeting is scheduled for 7 tonight at the Point Place Branch Library, 2727 117th St. Cincinnati City Council passed a budget resolution in January, 2008, calling for $1 million in revenue from red-light cameras, planned to be installed later that year, Mr. Finney said.He said COAST, along with a variety of other organizations in Cincinnati, collected a little more than 14,000 signatures during a petition drive there and presented the issue to voters, who supported a ban.
"We have a very unique coalition," Mr. Finney said. "We united left and right, liberals and conservatives, to say that this continuing encroachment of government into the daily lives of citizens is offensive and we're going to put a stop to it." One Toledo resident participating in the efforts here is Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Tavern on Alexis Road. Mr. Delaney said the cameras are one more way for the city to collect cash to help bail itself out of debt. "They have their hand out saying, 'Give me more. We have a problem,'•" Mr. Delaney said. "The American people are the bailout. Enough is enough." The city approved a five-year agreement with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. of Culver City, Calif., last year to operate red-light cameras and speed enforcement cameras. The deal, reached in February, increased the fines from $95 to $120 and the amount of revenue the city receives from 25 percent to 54.2 percent. Toledo collected slightly more than $600,000 from the cameras in 2007 and revenue is expected to increase to about $2.5 million with the jump in fines. The city issued 22,566 tickets through the cameras in 2006 and 23,595 in 2007. Ticket totals for 2008 were not yet available. Toledo became the first Midwest city to install red-light cameras in 2002 and the number of cameras and targeted intersections has expanded. The city now uses 30 red-light cameras at 21 intersections. Seventeen cameras are used to catch speeders. While the cameras do produce revenue for the city, Chief Navarre said that is not their sole purpose. He said every camera throughout the city has shown a steady decline in violations since they were installed. "That means less people are running red lights and I think it's logical and sensible to conclude there will be less accidents," he said. "The fact that revenue is generated is a fortunate by-product." Contact Laren Weber at: